Coins in Space

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Robert Lasson, director of creative services in NC State’s Fitts Industrial and Systems Engineering Department.

Using 3D printers, NC State engineers created the official NC State University coin that will be aboard the new Orion spacecraft. An unmanned test flight of the Orion will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on December 4.

Photo credit: Robert Lasson
Photo credit: Robert Lasson

Terri Lomax, Vice Chancellor of Research, Innovation and Economic Development at NC State and member of the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), contacted Richard Wysk, a professor in NC State’s industrial and systems engineering department, about creating the coin.

“We accepted the challenge of creating an original coin for Orion’s Exploration Flight Test,” said Wysk. “Because of the accelerated timetable, we knew using our EBM machines was the best option.” EBM, or Electron Beam Melting, machines use a high power electron beam to print metal objects. The ISE Department was the first in the world to have an EBM machine.

Wysk turned the project over to two of the department’s experts in 3D printing, research assistant professors Ron Aman and Tim Horn.

“The coin is made of a titanium alloy. The same kind of alloy used in aerospace and biomedical applications,” said Aman. With the use of Materialise’s Magics software, Aman and Horn were able to create a 3D image of the University Seal. This new image was sent to the EBM machine. “We used a torch to oxidize and change the color of the surface of the coin and then polished the raised surfaces to give the coin a unique look,” said Aman.

Special thanks go to the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) for presenting NC State and its other founding universities with the opportunity to be a part of the experience. The Orion team plans to include the coin in a one-of-a-kind commemorative framed montage that will be presented to NC State in early 2015.

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